Eagles ran fake walkthrough before Super Bowl in case Patriots were watching

Remember SpyGate? It was an entire thing after Super Bowl 39, where the New England Patriots were caught videotaping practices of opposing teams, most notably the Philadelphia Eagles, before the Eagles’ 24-21 loss in the game. Well, the Eagles haven’t forgotten it, and they had some tricks of their own before Super Bowl 52.

Eagles long snapper Rick Lovato revealed that the team ran fake walkthroughs at U.S. Bank Stadium, just in case the Patriots were up to anything. Via Pro Football Talk:

McConaughey is a Texas Longhorns fan, too. So why not the Cowboys? He’s got plenty of extremely solid reasons.

I grew up watching westerns with my father; I was always rooting for the Indians instead of the Cowboys, McConaughey said in 2013, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. My favorite food was hamburgers growing up; they had a linebacker, no. 55, Chris Hanburger. And then John Riggins. When you’re 4 years old, that’s why you really commit to a team, for reasons like that. It goes way back.

Kyle Soppe: I spent a good amount of time going back and forth on this one and truly believe I could talk either player up, but my slight lean is toward Antetokounmpo for one reason and one reason only — usage. As good as Towns is, his Timberwolves have the fourth-best record in the West and he ranks No. 98 in usage. That’s not a typo: 98! That’s behind the likes of Tony Parker and Austin Rivers. If Minnesota were struggling and needed to change things up a bit, I’d be all in on KAT being the pick here, but they rank behind only the Warriors and Rockets in offensive efficiency, so I have a hard time seeing much changing for the stretch run.

Antetokounmpo checks in at No. 10 in usage, ahead of Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry. While his range is essentially limited to 16 feet, until the league shows me that they can consistently force him into other shots, I’m assuming that it is humanly impossible to stop The Greek Freak from continuing to score at will.

Neither of these players projects for much regression, so I think your team is in good hands either way. However, when all is said and done, Antetokounmpo is going to be on more championship rosters than Towns.jaguars_109-223x223

How Todd Gurley bounced back from sophomore slump to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year

After a rough sophomore season in 2016, Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley revived his career in a big way in 2017. The two-time Pro Bowler accumulated a league-high 2,093 yards from scrimmage scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns.

The NFL took notice of Gurley’s career restart and crowned him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He finished second in yards rushing with 1,305 yards and scored a league-best 13 rushing touchdowns.

It was a clean sweep for the Rams, who also had the Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald.

“I thought Louie did a heck of a job with his speech and to get in net and to throw a performance out like that after, it was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a long time,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.

A blood drive outside the arena started seven hours before the puck dropped Thursday to help replenish local blood banks. Within the first three hours, there were almost 200 donors. The team is collecting monetary donations and conducting a 50/50 raffle for the Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund. The Florida Panthers Foundation and the NHL will match donations and contribute $50,000 to the raffle.

The former Notre Dame head coach and Patriots offensive coordinator (among other job titles) told the free agent quarterback-to-be not to go to a team “just because they offer you the most money.” And I can’t decide if Weis is the most qualified or least qualified person in the world to offer that sort of advice, given his own career arc.

Weis was the head coach at Notre Dame from 2005-09. His first two years were pretty good, with the Irish getting to BCS bowl games and winning 19 games. But his tenure stalled out after that, and Notre Dame fired Weis following a 6-6 2009 season.

Cousins has played his entire career with Washington. He’s going to be a free agent shortly, Washington having agreed to trade for another QB and shower him with cash. Cousins has played the last two seasons under lucrative, one-year franchise tags.

Red Sox owner John Henry: We ‘don’t need to be popular, we need to win’

As the Boston Red Sox stepped out into the sun Monday for their first full-squad workout of spring training, owner John Henry maintained that he’s more concerned about W’s and L’s than the team’s Q rating.

The gold medal favorites, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada are the first to go in the final group. Their season best — a world record — is 82.68. And now it’s 83.67, a new world record, and first place.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France are next. Their season best of 82.07 will be hard to top, but they want to answer to Virtue and Moir. They managed an 81.93, in second place behind Virtue and Moir. The American team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue is up next. They scored a 77.75, placing them in third, ahead of the Shib sibs.

I look at this as a team that can make the playoffs moving forward. That was a big decision for me. I clearly wanted to stay in Indy.

Vinatieri will get a $250,000 bonus if he makes 88 percent of his field goal attempts next season. He missed out on $500,000 each of the past two seasons after failing to make 90 percent of his field goal attempts. Two of his misses came in blizzard-like conditions in Buffalo last season.

Assuming we’re not playing in a crazy Buffalo blizzard and stuff like that, maybe we’ll hit the incentive this year, he said.

We’re back to everything I’ve been talking about over the last few years, James said to the media. It lets me know that everything I’ve been saying has been correct for her to be having that type of reaction.


Indians, reliever Carlos Torres agree to minor league deal

The Cleveland Indians have agreed to a minor league contract with free-agent reliever Carlos Torres, who could fill a bullpen opening.

Torres pitched in 67 games last season for the Milwaukee Brewers. The right-hander will join the Indians in training camp once he passes a physical. The 35-year-old went 4-1 with a 4.21 ERA last season, his second with Milwaukee following three with the New York Mets.

Torres has a 4.00 ERA in 348 career major league games with the Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Mets and Brewers. He has pitched in at least 59 games in each of the past four seasons.

The Padres are looking to Hosmer to provide guidance for a pending wave of young talent. ESPN’s Keith Law recently ranked San Diego’s farm system as third-best in the game behind those of the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees, although the bulk of the organization’s talent is at the lower levels of the minors.

What did White really redeem himself from? When he failed in the last Olympics, he failed because, as he himself admitted, he was a bit bored and complacent, and his version of failure was to come in fourth place, something most snowboarders could never dream of doing. His redemption isn’t from any real fall, at least not in terms of his history; it’s him going from amazing to great then back to amazing again.

The sports world wants and needs to tell stories of heroes. It cries out for myths of men and women who overcome obstacles, strive for greatness, are champions of individualism. Actual life is much more complicated. Too complicated.

If I had caved one round sooner, I could have had Masahiro Tanaka as the foundation of this staff, but as it stands, I have six SP with 200-K potential and every one of my hitters could end up with at least 20 HR — should things break the right way — to go along with 10 out of 15 position players who could end the season with double-digit steals.

The upshot is, while I might not wait this long to take my first pitcher in every rotisserie-based league I participate in, I’m also not going to sweat it if, 100 picks in, I haven’t yet broken the seal on the position. There are a lot of arms out there to be had.

Kyle Soppe: This mock draft reinforced what I thought might be the case … you need outfielders and pitchers. The standard ESPN roster requires you to roster a boatload of each, so there is the natural urge to grab one or two of them and believe that you can fill in the holes later, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case this season. Contrary to AJ’s take on things, the pitchers I truly feel comfortable with evaporated after the first pick of Round 8 and the outfielders I consider viable starters ran out shortly thereafter.royals_081

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport then reported, “The belief is Bill Belichick will be back.

Zac Al-Khateeb: The Eagles have proven themselves capable of beating the Patriots this postseason on both sides of the ball. Philadelphia’s defense, led by the D-line, has kept quarterbacks uncomfortable all year and has allowed a paltry 78 rushing yards per game in these playoffs. Foles has looked good in the last two games and heads an offense built to play with a lead.

Mike DeCourcy: The peril of making a Super Bowl prediction, or a prediction in any game involving these Patriots, is there’s a very good chance you will be 100 percent correct for as much as 58 minutes and still wrong in the end. Think about it. The three biggest games they’ve played in the last 12 months all involved extremely capable opponents who controlled the action — or in Atlanta’s case at last year’s Super Bowl, dominated — and found a way to lose in the end: Falcons, Steelers, Jaguars.

Tom Brady will be back and of course Robert Kraft will be as well. The things to work out include what to do about Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady’s trainer, and how to get over some of the angst involving the trade with Jimmy Garoppolo.”

It’s been an intriguing storyline all season that there’s friction within the organization, but despite ESPN’s latest report that seemed to backtrack itself, Belichick and Brady are expected to be back for the 2018 season.

This game has the feel of a back-and-forth affair with neither team starting slow. It probably comes down the last possession, and Brady will need only one final minute to push the Patriots to victory — and the first Super Bowl repeat since they beat the Eagles in Super Bowl 39. Patriots 30, Eagles 27.

During a Wednesday news conference, Ballard described the system as “easy for young players to play because it’s simple and it allows them to play fast and physical. That’s what we want to be.”

Eberflus coached linebackers in Dallas the past seven seasons, including the past four years under “Tampa-Two” guru Rod Marinelli. Balllard also got to see Phair coach first-hand when both were with the Bears in 2011 and ’12.

The Colts adroitly deployed a “Tampa-Two” system when Tony Dungy was head coach from 2002-08. The unit was spearheaded by standouts such as safety Bob Sanders, linebacker Gary Brackett and defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

The system itself is largely predicated upon zone-coverage concepts, outside speed rush and defensive tackles whoclog offensive linemen and allow scraping linebackers to make tackles.

“I feel very lucky to have Matt in the building running a scheme that I think fits our team that wescout for and that fits our building,” Ballard said. “We’re playing on an indoor surface. We’re going to be playing in ideal weather 8-12 games a year that’s going to be based on athletic ability and speed. That’s how this defense is built.”bills_037

The GOAT arguments for anybody else officially have disappeared.

So if you’re looking a tiebreaker for the crossover sport GOAT, this would be it: Brady is still doing his thing at 40, and he shows no signs of stopping. It actually seems more like he’s warming up to the best football of his career.

For Brady, a win in Super Bowl 52 would not just be gravy like it was for John Elway and Manning. The Patriots quarterback still has the sizzle and steak for however long he wants it. Beating Father Time is his most impressive victory.

Talk to younger NFL players about Brady — they don’t waste much time in dropping the GOAT note. Brady has set the impossible standard every athlete in American team sports now chases, so everyone is trying to be like him.

Brady is a student and a master of the game at the same time. Even with all the greatness seen in every American sport over the years, he has taken the art and science of winning to a place it has never been.

The award has been won by the winning team’s quarterback in eaight of the last 11 seasons. The three non-QBs over the past 11 years? That would be Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith and Broncos linebacker Von Miller.

“The most important thing for me is doing the very best that I can every time,” he said before that Super Bowl win over the Falcons. “I take the field to be the best. I know that winning the game is a lot better than losing this game, because I’ve had some of the longest nights of my life after these losses. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it’s a win.”

Brady didn’t walk into the NFL with any kind of pedigree other than the fact that he was a Michigan product. He had to fight at first just to stick on the Patriots’ roster before he earned his shot at the starting job.bills_013

The Raiders needed a win to maintain their grip on the AFC’s No. 2 seed.

Instead, they received a 27-6 drubbing at the hands of the Denver Broncos and lost backup quarterback Matt McGloin, who was starting in place of the injured Derek Carr. That result, coupled with the Chiefs’ 37-27 victory over the San Diego Chargers, drops Oakland to the fifth seed and takes away a first-round bye.

Their prospects as they enter the AFC playoffs don’t look bright — although a first-round matchup with the Houston Texans, who also lost its latest starting quarterback to injury, should give their fans some relief.

The situation between Prescott and Romo produced quarterback controversy story lines all season long until the Cowboys definitively said they would stuck with Prescott for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. Dallas’s desire to avoid rekindling that controversy may have prompted the hook for Romo following just his one drive.

Romo, on the other hand, has been a delight to Twitter, which is filled with examples of him calling out runs, passes and blitz before they happened. But there’s more to Romo than his “Amazing Kreskin” ability to predict plays, Nantz noted on the call.

“He has multiple pitches, so to speak. A lot of folks came off the first real broadcast and tried to paint a picture of him as this incredible play-caller. But there’s much more breath to his skill level than just that,” said Nantz.

Of the players, Mnuchin said: “They have the right to have their First Amendment off the field. This is a job.”

Another White House official, Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short, said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that Trump is standing with the “vast majority” of Americans who believe the flag “should be respected.”

Bills’ Benjamin goes down with knee injury: Benjamin left the game and has been ruled out after taking a hit to his knee in the first half against the Chargers.

Rivers cleared: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has cleared the concussion protocol, which means his streak of 185 consecutive starts since 2006 is likely to continue.jaguars_088

No concussion protocol could prevent or mitigate damage from those hits.

It could be argued the concussion protocol is only an attempt to make an inherently damaging game appear safer.

“The reality is, the concussion protocol does matter,” Nowinski said. “Players can die of second-[impact] syndrome. Careers can end from concussion symptoms. We have to get this right.”

The New England Patriots nearly fell to 1-2 at the hands of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. Instead it was Tom Brady finding Brandin Cooks for the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion with 23 seconds remaining to rally the Patriots to a 36-33 victory.

In Philadelphia, rookie Eagles kicker Jake Elliott blasted a 61-yard field goal to send the New York Giants to an 0-3 start, despite two touchdown catches – and two interesting celebrations – from wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Detroit suffered disappointment on the final play of the game. Wide receiver Golden Tate appeared to score a game-winning touchdown with 6 seconds remaining. On review, Tate was ruled down at the half yard line. By rule, the review required a 10-second runoff, ending the game and giving the Falcons a 30-26 win. Atlanta starts that season with a record of 3-0.

The Patriots reclaim the No. 1 spot after their victory over the Steelers. It certainly wasn’t easy. But Tom Brady yet again was at his best in crunch time. Rob Gronkowski was a difference-maker for the offense in his return from his one-game suspension. And good luck and meticulous preparation came together for the Patriots in the wild final sequence when the catch-rule replay reversal went their way and their defense was more than ready for the fake-spike throw into the end zone.

The Jaguars may be the one team capable of preventing the expected Steelers-Patriots rematch in the AFC championship game. They can play rugged defense and run the football, and they could face the Steelers in what could be a competitive conference semifinal. But the problem remains: Can QB Blake Bortles, even with his recently improved play, be trusted in games of consequence?

Every NFC playoff game has a chance to resemble those contests.

The field, regardless of which teams make it, will be a combination of surprising contenders, established stars and rising powers. There is no combination of NFC contenders that would make for even one unappealing playoff game, with the possible exception of the 7-6 Lions — who provided an opening-weekend dud last January — sneaking in.

If the playoffs started next week, three of the NFC quarterbacks on opening weekend would be former MVPs, including the past two, and the fourth would be last year’s No. 1 overall pick. The highflying Rams (Jared Goff) would host the defending NFC champion Falcons (Matt Ryan), and Drew Brees’s Saints would host Newton’s Panthers.

Elliott’s suspension is without pay and would cost him just over $559,192, or six-seventeenths of his 2017 salary of $1,584,379.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said he believes the league has treated Elliott unfairly. Jones has threatened to fellow owners to take legal action to try to block Goodell’s pending contract extension. Other owners attribute Jones’s actions to his anger over Elliott’s suspension, although Jones’s associates say the two are not related and Jones merely is acting on his long-held belief that owners have overpaid Goodell and all owners should be involved in negotiating the commissioner’s contract. The NFL and several others within the league say they expect Goodell’s five-year extension through 2024 to be completed in the coming months despite Jones’s threat of legal action.

Given that context, Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks, a 5-10 speedster, is very much capable of putting forth a similar performance. Cooks had six receptions for 100 yards in New England’s 24-20 AFC championship victory against the Jaguars. Don’t underestimate wide receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Dion Lewis or even kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

As for the Eagles, their run to Super Bowl 52 has been fueled partly by their defense in the wake of Carson Wentz’s season-ending knee injury. Philadelphia has forced 10 turnovers in five games since losing its star QB.

But he actually allows that to grow. For a young coach in this league, that’s usually the thing that comes last is to have this much faith and trust in the players and the leadership. But I think it’s given us an opportunity to really build a culture.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell agrees with those who feel that all players should stand.

“Kid played great,” Self said. “I mean he got 26 points on nine shots. That’s very impressive for a guard, and he was very under control and seemed to make the vast majority of the right plays for his team.”

Christian James scored 15 points and Brady Manek added 14 for the Sooners (15-4, 5-3 Big 12), who won their 13th straight at home.

Svi Mykhailiuk scored 24 points and Malik Newman added 20 for Kansas (16-4, 6-2), which had won five straight.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: The good news for owners of any Charger is that Rivers appears to be on his way to playing in Week 11 after suffering a concussion in Week 10. He had a full practice Thursday and all signs point to him being cleared. That’s especially important for Keenan Allen (see below), a player that would have suffered in Rivers’s absence.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Allen is a player who typically wouldn’t warrant a spot in this “fringe” area, and truth is, most owners probably can’t afford to bench a player of his caliber. While he only has one game with more than five receptions, and only one touchdown, he’s still receiving a high volume of targets. The X-Factor this weekend is whether Rivers (see above) can play after suffering a concussion. The Chargers are at home vs. the Buffalo Bills, who come in ranked 21st in passing defense. As for Allen, owners should probably have him in the lineup. If Rivers can’t go, certainly expectations should be tempered.

More than half of Americans — 52 percent — disapprove of NFL players taking a knee during the anthem, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. The disapproval is even higher among white Americans and Republicans — groups that are overwhelmingly pro-Trump and overlap considerably since 8 in 10 Republicans are white.

Carr: Although we’d run simple schemes, Coughlin was great at adding subtle differences in the alignment of a defensive end, or playing outside leverage instead of inside leverage. Coughlin came into our quarterbacks room during the first week of prep leading up to Super Bowl XLVI and said, “We’ve run that in-route so much off play-action that I think we should return the receiver back to the sideline.” Sure enough, on a crucial drive in that game, Manning play-action faked and New England’s cornerback had run the in-route before our receiver, Hakeem Nicks, did. Then, Nicks stopped and came back toward the sideline to make a huge play. It’s the small things that give Coughlin an edge.

A roller-coaster season in Cleveland is on a steady, accelerating descent. The Cavaliers have lost 10 of 14, and in the past 12 days, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions have been blown out by 28, 34 and 24 points.